Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Prepping Guides

 I realised after I shared how I prep for a week I left out prepping our guides for the week ahead. This year we have several guides from several companies: Winter Promise, Sonlight, & Bookshark. With WP this year we're only using the Language Arts at this time, so that guide doesn't need much prepping. I like to peek at my schedule as I copy down what pages we're doing so I know what topics will be covered, but aside from that it's very open & go.

The other two guides take a little more prep time & I generally prep them at the same time I'm putting my planning sheet for the week in my planner. It doesn't take more then five minutes to deal with either. First off, I tend to take the note sections from my guides & run off copies. My objective is not to keep a neat set for selling, nope. Rather, I use one copy to write on for one child & then use the fresh guide to write in with the next one. This allows all my notes per child to be in their own guides. I can easily reference back to a previous one if needed, but in general what I do with one child won't always be identical with the other.

Once I have those in my planner I grab a pack of highlighters & go to town. I highlight the vocabulary words in orange, retention/discussion questions in yellow, mapping & timeline information is in green, history & geography notes are in purple, read aloud notes are in yellow, & readers are in pink. I generally try to use 1 colour per thing so I need to remove one of my yellows not that I have a new blue highlighter.

Each week I just flag where we are with a post-it note & flip to it after readings are done. It doesn't matter if I was present for the reading or not. One big objective this year for the kids is to learn to retain more information then just what they find interesting in order to help them process the information & apply that knowledge to other things like tests.

We've never been big test takers here, but as Morgan gets older testing is essential for a variety of reasons. This year we're choosing to focus on test taking, in a semi-relaxed atmosphere. I have one child who gets giddy with excitement over taking a test because his confidence is sky high in the knowledge that he can & will succeed. The other one would prefer to curl up in a ball & pretend tests don't exist. This isn't because he doesn't know the information, but he struggles with the idea of failure.

In either case, discussing the information in our guides helps them process what we've heard. It can help start discussions for things we might not have otherwise thought of. This year Morgan is using Story Of The World Vols. 2-4, there are many discussion questions in the guide we're using & often those questions will prep him for the test that accompanies the chapters. As an aside, the tests are not scheduled with the curriculum we are using, they are something we've opted to add in.

Now, if you've used the notes & questions in your guide & felt overwhelmed or frustrated because maybe your kids gave one word answers or less then stellar answers, take heart. I always find that at the start of the year answers are... well, lame. In fact I'm not above saying to my kids, "That's lame." or, "I think you can do better then that."

We're at the 4 week mark in our term & when I ask the questions after readings I'm finding that the answers mirror very well the pre-printed answers. My objective is not to have children who can spout back textbook answers, but within their answers they hit very closely on what's written in my guide.

I do not have my children write the answers down, I simply ask them aloud & they answer them aloud. With Jayden moving off on his own now this was especially important to me that we use the guides in his Core. He's new to the whole "doing so much on his own" thing & I didn't want him to even feel tempted to skip a bit here or there & attempt to "catch up" later without first discussing it with me. He went from needing a bit of coaxing to get those answers out of him in Week 1 to not only giving the appropriate answers, but expanding further. I love this, not only because it tells me he's grasped the material but this is an area the my boy can, at times, struggle in.  His abilities often outweigh his own knowledge. Meaning he's capable of reading something, but that doesn't always mean he's grasped the content.

Another thing I love about marking my guides like this is that it makes it super simple to locate exactly what we're mapping. Somedays we can have zip & then other days we can have a lot. In the newer Sonlight Guides, & Bookshark Guides, you get a lovely laminated map that expands out. Each map is labeled so the child can use mapping skills to locate places on the map. We take it a step farther & after they locate it on the small map they transfer it to the big map. My kids love geography so this is something they've been known to sulk about if it's a day with no mapping.

It just really helps me feel I'm getting the most out of our curriculum this way!

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